GRAND JUNCTION (10/4/12) – In a showdown between the state's first and second-ranked 3A teams, a knockout was delivered by the Rifle Bears, and it was no contest as the visitors pummeled Palisade 31-3 at Stocker Stadium Thursday.
Pre-game anticipstion focused on Rifle's 1300-yard rusher, Ryan Moeller and the Bulldogs' balanced attack led by quarterback Luke McLean. Moeller did his part exploding for a pair of 70-plus yard touchdowns and picking off a pass that led to the game's first score on a 32-yard field goal by Marcus Gutierrez. But McLean, after completing his first two passes and driving down to the Bear 36, was intercepted by Moeller and finished the game just 6-for-16 for 61 yards, with another interception at the Rifle 12 in the third quarter by Bailey Hoffmeister, who was otherwise in the Palisade backfield all night.
Though Moeller would finish with 242 yards on 20 carries, early in the game he was primarily a decoy, not touching the ball (aside from his interception) until nearly midway through ther first quarter. But backfield companion Kellin Leigh completed a 29-yard halfback pass to Aaron Wegler to the Palisade 22, then finished the drive with a 7-yard touchdown to give Rifle a 10-0 lead with 2;56 remaining in the first quarter.
Then Moeller essentially ended the suspense on Rifle's next possession, bursting off tackle and into the secondary on his way to a 73 yard touchdown for a 17-0 first-quarter lead at the 1:03 mark. Following the first of four-straight touchbacks on kickoffs by Gutierrez, Palisade put together a 17-play, 80 yard drive for the Bulldogs' only score, a 31 yard field goal from Spencer Jackson.
Down 17-3 at halftime, Palisade was flagged for coming out of the locker room too late to warm up, then Moeller did his thing again on the Bears' first place from scrimmage, breaking loose on a 78 yard TD run, his 22nd of the season.
That explosion seemed to drain the life out of the Bulldogs and McLean was 0-for-4 passing in the quarter. After an exchange of punts to open the fourth quarter the Bears put together an 11-play, 64-yard drive on the ground, featuring balanced running from Moeller, Leigh, and sophomore Isaac Rider. Leigh dashed untouched for the final 11 yards and Gutierrez capped a perfect kicking night, giving Rifle a 28-point lead with 4:45 left in the game.
Leigh ably supported Moeller with 99 yards rushing for two touchdowns and Rider added 45 yards in 7 carries. Quarterback Adam Rice made Palisade (5-1, 4-1 WSL) pay for keying on the ground game by completing 5 of 8 passes for 108 yards. Overall, the Bears (6-0, 5-0) accumulated 498 total yards and will face another top-ranked team next week when they host number-five Conifer.
Listen to our broadcast of the game here: